News

Shelby County Swears in First Female Chief Public Defender

Shelby County swore in its first female chief public defender yesterday, The Commercial Appeals reports. Phyllis Aluko has spent 25 years in the office where she began as a volunteer, then moving to the trial division for 10 years, later transferring to the appellate division. Judge Bernice Donald of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit said at the ceremony: "Phyllis Aluko is now, has been and will be an exceptional public defender … She understands the needs of the office, the needs of the community." Aluko replaces former Shelby County Public Defender Stephen Bush, who retired in February.
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Scooter Firms Eyeing Chattanooga Market

Commuters in Chattanooga will soon have another transit option: electric scooters, The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. Currently a common conveyance in Nashville and Memphis, the scooters have become ubiquitous on city sidewalks, with the municipalities grappling with ways to regulate their use. In fact, the scooters were initially banned in Nashville just two days following introduction last May, with city leaders expressing concerns over pedestrian safety and sidewalk obstruction. Nashville’s Metro Council eventually rescinded the ban, putting in place a permit process and new rules allowing the companies to be fined for scooters left on sidewalks, also requiring riders to stay off sidewalks in business districts and use hand signals when turning. City leaders in Chattanooga have expressed similar concerns and intend to methodically address these concerns over a 12-month pilot period. Companies that wish to offer the service in Chattanooga will pay a $110 fee for each newly permitted dockless vehicle.

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Ex-Deputy Gets 5-years Probation for Vote Buying in Sheriff's Race

A former reserve deputy who recruited a marijuana dealer to buy votes for a Republican candidate for Monroe County sheriff in 2014 and then lied about it is now banned from politicking for the next five years, Knoxnews reports. U.S. District Judge Tom Varlan on Tuesday approved a five-year probationary sentence for Brian Keith “Wormy” Hodge for his role in a conspiracy to buy votes for Randy White in White’s successful 2014 campaign. Varlan opted to impose two “special conditions” on Hodge’s probation: barring him from participating in any political activities while on probation; and requiring him to perform 50 hours of community service.
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House Passes Controversial Voter Registration Bill

House lawmakers have passed a bill that places new restrictions on voter registration efforts, though its passage was not without controversy, the Tennessean reports. The measure, backed by Secretary of State Tre Hargett, would require groups leading voter registration efforts to undergo training and potentially face fines for submitting too many incomplete forms. Critics of the bill say it would criminalize voter registration drives, and claim the bill was motivated in response to the surge of African-American voter registration efforts prior to the 2018 midterm elections.
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Committee Reaches Compromise on Community Oversight Subpoena Power

The state House and Senate this week reached a compromise as they seek to put in place regulations for police oversight boards like the newly established one in Nashville, the Nashville Post reports. A conference committee made up of members from both chambers decided on an amended version of the bill that would allow community oversight boards to seek a subpoena through a local elected body like a city or metro council. The full chambers now must approve the compromise bill.
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5 New Job Postings on TBA’s Joblink

See who is hiring in Tennessee. Recent job postings this month offer opportunities in litigation, real estate, health law and more. See full listings or post positions in your firm on TBA’s Joblink.
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Man Sues Rutherford County Adult Detention Center After Fall From Bunk

A man who is paralyzed after falling off the top bunk while incarcerated in the Rutherford County Adult Detention Center is now suing the institution for negligence, The Daily News Journal reports. Nicholas Parks maintains that jail staff made him sleep on the top bunk despite his protestations and detailed medical history. Court filings show that Rutherford County plans to ask for dismissal of the lawsuit. Parks’ attorney, Tommy Santel, did not return the paper’s request for comment.

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Legal Battle Over Toxic Waste in Tennessee Town Heats Up

A rural community in west Tennessee continues its fight against a waste management company regarding a toxic substance that has polluted area water sources and devastated local vegetation, USA Today reports. In 1999, the town of Bath Springs contracted North Carolina corporation Waste Industries to assume operations of its landfill that was used for local waste in Decatur County. Subsequently, under new management, the landfill began to accept “special waste” characterized as being "difficult or dangerous" to contain, which is more profitable than household trash but when exposed to elements excretes an ooze called leachate that finds its way into the soil and ultimately the water supply. Waste Industries later announced plans to abandon the landfill and sued the county, maintaining the municipality was derelict in its responsibilities to “to provide for the disposal and treatment of the leachate” and is in breach of the initial agreement. The county filed its own lawsuit against Waste Industries, alleging violations of federal clean air and water acts. The lawsuit against the county is scheduled for a status conference on May 10 in Tennessee Western District Court, Judge S. Thomas Anderson presiding.

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Follow TBA Convention Updates on Facebook

Want an easy way to follow updates on the 2019 TBA Convention? Sign into Facebook and let others know you'll be attending. You'll receive notifications when updates are posted, and you'll be able to see which of your friends are also heading to Nashville in June for the conference!
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Charter Schools' Morality Clause Potentially 'Problematic,' Counsel Says

After a charter school organization and the Catholic Diocese of Memphis entered into a leasing agreement with a “morality clause,” the Shelby County School District’s general counsel has weighed in, saying the agreement has the “potential to be problematic” but that state law limits how the district can intervene. The Commercial Appeal reports that the six schools in question are currently open as private Catholic schools, but will close and reopen this year as public charter schools. The lease agreements contain a clause that requires the schools not teach or promote any position that would be considered "gravely immoral" to the church, at the discretion of the Memphis bishop. 
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Hamilton County's First Countywide African-American Judge Sworn In

Gerald Webb II, a former assistant district attorney and criminal defense lawyer, was recently sworn in as the newest judge on the Hamilton County General Sessions Court. He is the first African American judge to hold a countywide judgeship in Hamilton County. Webb is taking the place of Judge Clarence Shattuck, who recently retired after 36 years on the bench. Webb was appointed to the position by the Hamilton County Commission.
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Local Government Forum is Thursday; Tour of New Tennessee State Museum Included

Government law is an ever-changing practice area with a unique blend of constitutional, statutory and case laws. This year's Local Government Forum will address intangibles of the practice area, along with topics such as ABC laws, government employment law, legal ethics in a government setting and more. The six-hour forum kicks off at 9 a.m. at the Tennessee Bar Center in Nashville and continues until 4:30 p.m. A networking event will follow at the newly opened Tennessee State Museum, with museum curators offering a staff-guided tour of the facility.

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RSVP for Reception Following Local Government Forum on April 11

The TBA Local Government Section will host a reception at the newly opened Tennessee State Museum, 1000 Rosa Parks Blvd., following its annual forum on April 11 in Nashville. Attendees of the reception will meet with museum curators and receive a staff-guided tour of the brand-new facility. This event is open to all Local Government Section members and those interested in learning more about the section; forum attendance is not required. Don’t miss out on this unique opportunity to learn Tennessee history while engaging with TBA leadership. You can RSVP for this event here.
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Federal Judge Won't Dismiss Wrongful Death Suit Against Deputy

A federal judge is refusing to dismiss a wrongful death lawsuit against a Blount County Sheriff’s Office deputy accused of slamming an unarmed, handcuffed man head-first onto concrete, Knoxnews reports. U.S. District Judge Pamela Reeves says Deputy Jerry Burns’ actions in the July 2016 death of 25-year-old Anthony Michael Edwards were beyond the pale — legally and constitutionally. The lawsuit seeks more than $150 million in compensatory and punitive damages against Burns, Deputy James Patty and Blount County government.
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Lawsuit Claims Smyrna Employee Hit Inmate with Van on Purpose

A new federal lawsuit claims a Smyrna city employee hit a workhouse inmate with his van to encourage the man not to "lag behind," the Daily News Journal reports. The lawsuit, filed on March 15, says that Travis Wagner, who is employed by the Smyrna Streets Department, purposefully hit Rutherford County Correctional Work Center inmate Taylor Ross Jacobs with his van. Jacobs is seeking $175,000 from Wagner and $150,000 from the Smyrna Street Department because, according to the lawsuit, it knew of "Travis' abuse towards inmates and continue to let him supervise them."
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Hamilton Commission Appoints Webb to Replace Retiring Shattuck

The Hamilton County Commission today voted 8-1 to appoint attorney Gerald Webb as the replacement for General Sessions Court Judge Clarence Shattuck, The Chattanoogan reports. Webb will serve until August of next year when there will be a general election. Some 200 attorneys participated in a poll sponsored by the Chattanooga Bar Association and had attorney Joseph Hollis Jr. as the front-runner. There were 19 applicants, and the commission interviewed 17 of them last Wednesday afternoon.
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Third Stewart County Election Commissioner Resigns

The Stewart County Election Commission on Tuesday received its third resignation this month only hours before a scheduled meeting, The Leaf Chronicle reports. Martha Vaughn, a Democratic commissioner and the group's secretary, submitted the letter that only stated that she was resigning effective immediately. This comes just weeks after a joint resignation by former commission members James Adcock and Betty Gibbs, who left the group because of “unethical outside political interference” and the “lack of proper protocol, respect and decency" shown to members of the commission.

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Citizen Requests Ouster Investigation of Knox Commissioner Gill

Following news of settlement in the case where Knox County Commissioner Evelyn Gill was accused of abusing an 11-year-old autistic boy, a member of the county’s ethics committee and resident in Gill’s district is calling for her ouster, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. Michael Covington, who is considering running against Gill in next year’s commission race, sent a letter to Law Director Bud Armstrong Tuesday saying: “Mrs. Gill, by her actions, has shown that she lacks the character and temperament needed to function effectively in her current role with the county.” Covington further stated that while he doesn't think Gill has done a good job in office, this goes beyond that because “this is an incident that suggests that we didn’t really know her.” Gill is currently the only Democrat on the 11-member commission.

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Memphis Mayor Appoints Holder as Mediator in Park Redesign Dispute

Following disagreements regarding the planned redesign of Tom Lee Park, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland has appointed retired Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Janice Holder to mediate discussions between the organizers of Memphis in May International Festival and Memphis River Parks Partnership, the Commercial Appeal reports. Construction on the park is slated to begin in June and will be underway during the 2020 Beale Street Music Festival. Festival organizers believe there will not be enough space for the music festival and BBQ contest while leaders of the redesign claim the opposite. In a written statement, Strickland advocated the use of experienced mediators to get opposing parties back on the same page. Justice Holder has mediated for the City of Memphis before, including the removal of a Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest statue.

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Register Now: 31st Annual TBA Health Law Forum

Register now for the 31st Annual TBA Health Law Forum and the 19th Annual Health Law Primer to take place this October in Franklin The must-see, must-do event for Tennessee health law attorneys, this forum features timely topics designed to up your game and keep you on top of trends in the area. Presentations in this year’s program will include: cyber threats in health care, surrogate decision making, updates with TennCare, cloud-based vendor agreements, reps and warranties, legislative updates, antitrust concerns and much more. Don’t sleep on this opportunity to learn from seasoned practitioners while networking with top players in the field. Here are the key details:
 
Health Law Primer (introductory program)
When: Wednesday, Oct. 16
Where: Embassy Suites Hotel, 820 Crescent Centre Drive, Franklin
 
Health Law Forum
When:  Thursday, Oct. 17 – Friday, Oct. 18
Where: Embassy Suites Hotel, 820 Crescent Centre Drive, Franklin
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Registration Now Open for TBA Convention in Nashville, June 12-15

The TBA's annual Convention returns to downtown Nashville this summer! Mark your calendars for June 12-15 and prepare for four days of CLE, networking, entertainment and more at the Renaissance Hotel, 611 Commerce Street. Registration is officially open, with early bird rates available until April 30.
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Knox County Reaches Settlement in Lawsuit Accusing Commissioner of Abuse

A settlement has been reached in a lawsuit that accused Knox County Commissioner Evelyn Gill of abusing a special-needs student when she was his teacher at South-Doyle Middle School, Knoxnews reports. The county agreed to spend $93,000 in taxpayer funds, as well as court costs and the mediator's fee, to settle the suit, court records show. The student's parents assert Gill inflicted physical and psychological abuse in 2017 on their then-11-year-old son, who has autism, a mild mental disability and severe schizophrenia. In the suit, filed in August 2018, the family named as defendants Gill, Knox County, the Knox County Board of Education, Schools Superintendent Bob Thomas and South-Doyle Middle School Principal Andrew Brown.
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Attorney Asks Court to Dismiss Sexual Abuse Suit Against Davidson Court Clerk

Attorneys for Davidson County Circuit Court Clerk Richard Rooker and Metro Nashville are asking a court to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a former Rooker deputy who said he sexually abused her for 12 years, The Nashville Post reports. Rooker’s attorney, Hal Hardin, argues in court filings that the plaintiff deleted her Facebook account after filing the suit despite a preservation request, depriving Rooker of “important relevant evidence.” He added that that the plaintiff did not exhaust administrative remedies, that the suit was not filed within the statute of limitations and that Rooker cannot be held personally liable under the federal and state civil rights statutes cited by the plaintiff. He also asks the court to delay discovery in the case until the court rules on the motions to dismiss. 
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Court Documents Show Collierville Prosecutor Praising White Nationalists

Court documents in a federal court case show that an assistant prosecutor in Collierville wrote a social media post that praised white nationalists as "good God-fearing patriots," The Commercial Appeal reports. He also referred to white nationalists from the Charlottesville, Virginia, protests as "the good guys." Prosecutor Mike Cross' statement was introduced as evidence during the recent civil trial for Mike Goza, a skilled technician for Memphis Light, Gas and Water. Goza was fired after making controversial remarks related to a fight over Confederate statues, and has sued to get his MLGW job back. In a deposition, Goza described Cross as a friend. Goza said he attended a rally on behalf of Confederate statue preservation because Cross asked him to do it.
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Gov. Lee to Seek FEMA Assistance Regarding Flood Damage

Gov. Bill Lee on Thursday renewed his promise to secure FEMA funding to aid with flooding damage in the state, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. Tennessee will surpass the agency’s damage threshold after an unprecedented bout of rain throughout the past couple of months. Though state-wide figures have yet to be made available, it is estimated that Knoxville alone took a $43.5 million hit because of flooding.

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